California Wildfire Spreads; Threatens Homes


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By Michael Martinez and Paul Vercammen


NEWBURY PARK, California (CNN) — Energized by dryness and strong winds, a Los Angeles-area wildfire raged for a second day, growing to 10,000 acres and threatening 4,000 homes, fire officials said Friday.

The fire damaged 15 homes,15 outbuildings and five commercial properties, but none were destroyed and no one had been injured, authorities said.

Also threatened are 300 commercial properties and 50 outbuildings, authorities said.

The so-called Springs Fire was all but out of control in Ventura County. More than 950 fire and law enforcement personnel were able to contain only 10% of the blaze roaring near upscale houses and through the Santa Monica Mountains, the Ventura County Fire Department said.

Evacuations orders were in effect in several areas on Friday, but officials lifted such orders for the campus of California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo and for the Dos Vientos community in Newbury Park, authorities said.

Authorities closed a 10-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway just north of Malibu, the California Highway Patrol said Friday.

The highway between the ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains is among the most scenic drives in the Los Angeles area, but smoke rose from at least one patch on the coastal mountains.

The fire began Thursday morning in Camarillo and traveled nine miles to the coast by Friday, fueled by by low humidity and gusty Santa Ana winds, authorities said.

Because of the smoke, ash and winds, people in affected areas were urged to be cautious and to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities, the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District said.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers described the fire as a bad omen for California because the wildfire season isn’t supposed to start until August or September.

Mountain chaparral and shrubs are dry because Los Angeles has received only half of its normal rainfall the past two years, Myers said. The vegetation is now brown, though it should be green from winter rain, he added.

“Overall from a scale from one to 10, this fire’s a two compared to what we are going to see this fire season — millions of acres of wildland fires this season because the drought in the West is still in full swing,” Myers said.

Eight helicopters and six fixed-wing air tankers were dropping fire retardant on the blaze on Friday, Ventura County fire officials said.

Crews battling the fast-moving wildfires were not expected to get relief on Friday.

“Gusty Santa Ana winds will continue to bring extreme fire danger to the area through Friday,” the National Weather Service said. “Warnings are in effect for much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties through Friday afternoon, where there will continue to be a threat of rapid wildfire spread.”

Paul Whyte of Newbury Park city said he panicked when he found his home surrounded by flames.

Firefighters saved his home by diverting the blaze although nine acres of shrubbery in the area burned, he said.

“Your natural response is fear,” Whyte told CNN’s Piers Morgan. “I am glad my family is well and our house is still standing.”

Another fire

That blaze was one of two that firefighters were battling in the Los Angeles area. The other one was east of the city in Riverside County. In that fire, firefighters made progress against flames that consumed more than 2,950 acres, a fire official said.

The spread of the Summit Fire slowed Friday as crews contained 65% of the blaze, up from 40% from the previous day, the Riverside Fire County Fire Department said.

CNN’s Paul Vercammen reported from Newbury Park, and Lateef Mungin contributed to this report.

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